Archive for: June, 2010

Bedroom Storage Progress

When we first looked at our apartment, I was so distracted by the separate kitchen and the living room larger than a postage stamp that I didn’t even notice the lack of closets. Even the teeniest, tiniest apartments we looked at all had closets, if I recall. So once the real planning started, this dearth of usable storage space raised a few questions. For instance: where do I put all my shit?

We do have one closet, in Eva’s room. But given that her room is quite small, I don’t think it’s fair to use this as a catch-all storage space. I mean, let’s think about all the things you have to store, besides clothing. A vacuum cleaner, a ladder, suitcases, extra linens, spare lightbulbs, oppressive security gates you stripped off your window like a total badass, secrets… and that’s just off the top of my head.

Blessing or curse, my room didn’t come completely devoid of storage. Instead, there was actually the biggest wardrobe imaginable, presumably left by a previous tenant. I think once they realized it wouldn’t fit through the door without being disassembled, they just said “screw it, just leave it here.” That right there is the Ikea PAX wardrobe, measuring in at a whopping 93″ high, 39″ wide, and 2 feet deep. Someone ate their Wheaties.

My first instinct was to get rid of it. It’s so large that it felt kind of oppressive visually and physically, but more importantly it really wasn’t taking advantage of the space in an efficient or logical way. If we’re talking storage, let’s use that whole wall, right? Or at least something less massive-like-it-could-crush-me-in-my-sleep. I knew I could do better.

I considered a few different options. Ikea makes a number of more compact storage units that would have been a great fit on this wall, perhaps using the top to hold some nice-looking storage boxes or something of the sort. Then I thought about removing the doors on the existing unit, building some kind of modular shelving system next to it, and curtaining the entire thing off. I also considered one of those “I’m so post-modern” closets using a plain metal clothing rack, some shelves, maybe a dresser– in a I-don’t-give-a-fuck-but-really-this-is-super-neat-and-curated kind of way.

Like dis

In reality, I’m not freakishly neat enough for much open storage, nor am I really comfortable letting it all hang out like that. I also own more than a dozen hanging garments and my clothes don’t form any sort of subtle, artistic gradient when hung together (more like Plaid threw up all over his friends, Grey and Denim). At the same time, since this storage solution isn’t something that’s likely to extend beyond this apartment, it’s nothing I wanted to spend too much money on in an already tight budget.

So in the end, the best solution was turning lemons into lemonade. I’m saying this optimistically because there’s still a ways to go. But on Sunday, I took a trip (on the ferry! Really fun and pretty!) to my favorite Scandinavian furniture superstore to make that enormous PAX work for me. Before I left, I wrote out a list of everything I’d have to store and tried to find places for almost all of it. Or at least the big stuff. Then I left for Ikea with a very precise plan:

you get the idea

I ain’t no artist, but here they are. The Ikea PAX unit comes in several sizes, 20″ wide, 29″ wide, and 39″ wide. The existing unit is 39″ wide, and I planned to buy a new 29″ unit, which would have fit on the wall with a few inches to spare. But for no apparent reason, Ikea doesn’t sell a door for the 29″ unit. What’s with that?

So in the middle of the Ikea, I was at a crossroads. Go with the 29″ unit anyway and either make my own door/go back to the curtain solution, or go with the 20″ unit and sacrifice 9″ of storage. After about 30 seconds of strenuous deliberation, I went with the 20″ and got everything home delivered yesterday.

So when I got home from Ikea, I got to work. One of the things I really disliked about this thing was the color. I think the trick to dealing with really massive storage like this is to visually minimize as much as possible, but this thing couldn’t have possibly stuck out more. So I removed the doors and all the components, all of which I’m selling on Craigslist except the clothing bar. Then I sanded, primed (2 coats!) and painted.

Unfortunately the new PAX was broken upon arrival, so Ikea should call me tomorrow to arrange a replacement. And despite my best efforts, things didn’t exactly go as planned with the drawer components– I didn’t account for the placement of the door hinges, so only four of the five drawers actually fit in the end. I might rearrange things a little bit (definitely a shelf above the rod, for starters) since it’s important to squeeze every last usable inch out of this thing, but for now I’m just glad my clothing storage no longer looks like this:

The shame!

Yes, those Harry & David boxes were storing my socks and undies. Deal wid it.

More to come.

The Doors

There are a bunch of quirky things about our apartment, among them the doors to our bedrooms. What follows is way more detail than you or I ever wanted to know about our doors. But I’m giving it to you anyway. Because that’s just the type of generosity (narcissism) this blog is all about. Here’s a picture of them from before we moved in:

There’s definitely something charming about our old, pre-war doors. I don’t really know how old they are, but they’re solid wood and way more interesting to look at than the 60s hollow-core bathroom door. And the wavy-glass windows let a lot of nice light travel through the apartment, which is a big plus since some of our windows provide sweeping views of brick walls and other peoples’ kitchens. But they’d seen their share of sloppy paint jobs, and for a couple of roommates, the glass doors are just a little weird.

Sloppy paint, gloopy hardware

The hardware had all been painted over a bunch of times, and because I like to make things difficult, I decided to take the doors of their hinges and remove all the hardware. Cue the utility knife, paint stripper, putty knife, screwdrivers, and quietly whispered expletives.

Then I boiled it all in water with some dish soap in a specially designated pot I picked up from the thrift store down the street. This is the cheap-o version of the crock-pot method, but it seemed to work just as well. Most of the paint peels off really easily after it’s all cooked for a while, but the little crevices needed some toothbrush persuasion.

I sanded all the pieces lightly and then hit them with a few coats of  Rust-oleum matte black spray paint out on the fire escape. Meanwhile, I was busy painting the doors on our living room floor. It was quite a production.

But after the hardware and doors were back in place, none of that work did anything to solve the privacy issue. The obvious solution would have been some kind of fabric curtain made for french doors, but that all seemed a bit frilly for our place. I’d been planning on using frosted glass window film I’ve seen used many times before and have actually used myself. Usually, I’d recommend it: all it takes to apply is some careful cutting, a spray bottle full of soapy water, and a squeegee. It looks great when it’s up, provides privacy, still lets in light, and most importantly is really easy to remove and doesn’t leave any sticky residue. So I bought some (from Ikea, but Home Depot carries wider rolls for a little more money).

But once I put up a few testers on a couple of the panes to see how it would look, I wasn’t happy with it. Because these doors are individual panes (the old fashioned way, y’all) and the glazing around the panes doesn’t form perfectly straight lines like you might find on a new window, there was no way to get the frosting film perfect. It didn’t look terrible, but I didn’t like the way there were accidental slivers of light around the edges or the air bubbles that formed where an edge wasn’t making direct contact with the glass in some places. And those bubbles really only get worse with time.

So I weighed my options. I went back to curtain solutions but that seemed both a little pricey and I didn’t find any I liked, which would have meant sewing. Which I can do, but it seemed like a lot of effort for something I wasn’t really digging anyway. I researched some aerosol spray-on window frosting that doesn’t actually etch the glass, but I read mixed reviews on how removable it was and it didn’t sound very durable (it-looks-good-as-long-as-you-don’t-touch-it. Ever.). I considered double-stick taping on wallpaper or something, but that would have looked awful unless I did both sides, and even then I’m not convinced it would have looked good. It also would have blocked the light.

I had read a couple years ago about a process of applying fabric to walls using cornstarch– a renter’s alternative to the semi-permanence of wallpaper. So I hopped on the internets and found the original post where I read about it and then was reassured by an Apartment Therapy post on the topic that it would be fine for windows as well.

I decided to hack up one of the fitted sheets that I bought for my dorm’s twin extra-long bed, using one of the test panels of the frosted glass as a guide. I just lightly traced it with a pencil and cut out ten rectangles to fit the panes.

Then I made the paste, which is just regular cornstarch and water. I used two tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of water, and then added it to 2 cups of boiling water. This forms a sort of thin, misty, perverse-looking jelly.

Don’t forget to iron, kids.

Make sure the windows are nice and clean and apply the paste liberally to the back to the fabric. A chip brush might have been more appropriate than my pastry brush (its first use, appropriately, being for something like this instead of food), but it doesn’t matter. Then slap the fabric into place and use a squeegee (or credit card or anything with a hard, straight edge) to squeeze out bubbles and, as it turns out, lots of the paste you just brushed on. Have paper towels on standby. After that’s done, I lightly painted a coat of paste to the front, making sure to cover the entire surface but light enough that it wasn’t gloppy.

The fabric is much more forgiving than the film, as you can see in this side-by-side (fabric on the left, film on the right). I did cut the fabric slightly bigger, but you don’t have to worry about it bubbling around the edges because the fabric will stick to anything.

And here it is today after it all dried overnight. I can report that the starch seems to be holding really well and doesn’t look crusty or weird. And while a couple of the panes could use a re-do with a slightly bigger piece of fabric, I’m happy with how it turned out. Even more privacy than the window film, still lets in light, fully removable, and no harsh chemicals or specialty products. And not counting the previous cost of the window film (about $6 if I remember correctly), the whole project only cost $1.99 for the cornstarch, of which I still have plenty for the next time I whip up a refreshing vat of gravy or remove some errant blood stains. Plus, the project was so easy that we can change it up with a different fabric at some point in the future. But for now, I’m just going to go lounge around naked in my room.

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